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Experience the Feast of St. John in Oporto, a unique experience

Vive la Fiesta de San Juan en Oporto, una experiencia única

One of the most important and famous celebrations in the city of Porto is the Feast of St. John or São João. From the 7th to the 30th of June, the city is filled with festivities, music, lights and traditions that you should witness at least once in your life.

The origin of the Feast of St. John dates back to the 14th century as a pagan festival dedicated to the Sun God, in which the summer solstice was commemorated with rituals that used fire to give strength to the sun. For this reason, they used bonfires, which are still a symbol of this celebration today. Later, the Catholic Church adopted the celebration to honour the apostle St. John.

The Feast of St. John is of great importance in Porto and has been celebrated in the city for 700 years. In fact, the night of St. John is one of the most awaited events by its inhabitants, a date when everyone leaves their homes to celebrate in the streets with great feeling and passion.

It has a number of traditions and customs of its own that liven up the atmosphere, such as the leaping of the bonfire, the emblem of the celebration, and the making of wishes. These bonfires are everywhere during the night of San Juan, so it is not difficult to find one to jump over.

A curious and attention-grabbing custom is that of the ‘martelos de São João’ or ‘martelinhos’, coloured plastic hammers with which people bang on the heads of their friends and family.

On the other hand, if you visit the city during this magical night, you must experience the so-called ‘festarolas’, small neighbourhood parties that are all over Porto. They are the result of the feeling of togetherness and community that is created during this event and offer music, good atmosphere and typical Portuguese gastronomy, such as sardines.

Another of the most popular traditions of this festival is the ‘balões de San João’. These are paper balloons propelled by a candle flame that locals and tourists launch into the air to light up the Porto sky, creating an impressive sight.

Also worth mentioning are the ‘manjericos’, pots of basil plants decorated with a paper carnation and a romantic verse, which were once given as a symbol of love.

The high point of the Festas de São João takes place at midnight, at the change of day from the 23rd to the 24th of June. At that time, a great fireworks display is launched from the Don Luís I bridge. Accompanied by music, they cover the entire city sky with light and passers-by crowd along the banks of the Douro to watch the incredible show.

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